San Antonio Population Growth Since 1850

San Antonio’s population has grown from under 3,500 in 1850 to the seventh most populous city in the United States today.  Only New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia and Phoenix have larger populations within city limits.

In 1860, with a population of 8,235, San Antonio was the largest town in Texas (ahead of Galveston).  Until 1877, German was the predominate language.

In 1877, San Antonio experienced new economic growth sparked by its first railroad, the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway. Its concomitant population growth was mostly Anglos born in Southern states.  In 1881 a second railroad served San Antonio, the International–Great Northern; and by 1900 there were five railroads passing through the City.  The railroads spurred both economic and population growth.  San Antonio was the largest city in Texas in 1900, with a population of 53,321; in 1910 with a population of 96,614, and again in 1920 with 161,379 inhabitants.

San Antonio was an important military center during the Spanish-American War, and in both World Wars.  San Antonio’s population grew in the 1940s from 253,854 to 408,442.  Fort Sam Houston and four Air Force bases (Kelly, Randolph, Brooks and Lackland) were the City’s leading economic generators for many years. In the 1950s the City grew by almost 44 percent to reach 587,718 in 1960. By 2000 San Antonio was the third largest city in Texas and the ninth largest city in the United States, with a population of 1,144,646. The 2000 census reported that San Antonio’s population was 58.7% Hispanic, 32.5% Anglo, and 6.8% African American. A decade later, 62.7% were Hispanic, 26.6% were Anglo, 6.8% were African American, and 2.4% were Asian.

This chart shows the population of San Antonio since 1850 and the City’s population ranking among all United States cities.

San Antonio Population (city limits)

Year                Population      Rank

1850                3,488

1860                8,235

1880                20,550             96

1890                37,673             81

1900                53,321             71

1910                96,614             54

1920                161,379           41

1930                231,542           38

1940                253,854           36

1950                408,442           25

1960                587,718           17

1970                654,153           15

1980                785.880           11

1990                935,933           10

2000                1,144,646        9

2010                1,327,538        7

2016                1,492,510        7

San Antonio’s population is concentrated within its city limits.  Its metropolitan area does not rank nearly as high.

U.S. Metropolitan areas (2016)

Rank    Metro Area                             Population

1          New York                               20,153,634

2          Los Angeles                            13,310,447

3          Chicago                                     9,512,999

4          Dallas-Fort Worth                    7,233,323

5          Houston                                    6,772,470

6          Philadelphia                              6,070,500

7          Miami-Ft. Lauderdale                          6,066,387

24        San Antonio                              2,429,609

Today, tourism is a major contributor to the San Antonio economy.  By one measure, one-eighth of the San Antonio workforce works in the tourism industry and tens of millions of people visit San Antonio each year.